With the holiday and daytrip season upon us, I thought that a couple of my delicious picnic recipes would be useful to have up your sleeve. The first recipe is for a no bake cheesecake, made in a jam jar, thus making it ideal for any portable food requirements. The second recipe is for an Earl Grey Tea Loaf, again a good one for outdoors, as it isn’t too crumbly and it keeps, slices and travels well.
I entered into the picnic spirit, when a group of us recently visited the very splendid Gunby Hall. They were hosting an open air theatre production of The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, superbly staged and acted by the Lincoln based Chapterhouse Theatre Company. There was something delightfully British and a bit bonkers about sitting in the drizzle with lots of other people, pulling out various culinary delights from a sea of wicker baskets. The very stoic attitude of the cast was “if it rains, we will get wet, if it rains a lot we will get very wet.” The show must go on! Thankfully the rain eventually petered out and certainly didn’t dampen the audience or the actor’s spirits.
Gunby Hall is situated just off the Gunby roundabout near Skegness. The hall was built in 1700 by Sir William Massingberd and it stayed in their family for over 200 years. It is thanks to Field Marshal Archibald Montgomery who married Diana Massingberd, that Gunby Hall was saved from demolition in 1944, when it was gifted to The National Trust.
At certain times you can go into the Hall itself, guides are on hand to tell you about its wonderful history and you can view the pieces collected by generations of the Massingberd family. You can walk through the 8 acres of beautiful gardens, including the walled gardens which are full of vegetables, herbs and fruit trees.
For further details, their programme of events and to check for the latest opening dates and times, please visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/gunby-hall It is certainly on our list of places to visit through the holidays, this time going for the day so we can enjoy all of the delights of this Lincolnshire gem.
My first recipe for you this month is for my Lemon and Mandarin Jam Jar Cheesecakes . This makes a great dessert that is outdoor and picnic friendly. It is really easy to make and doesn’t need baking. You can adapt the recipe to suit whatever flavour you fancy, such as fresh strawberry with vanilla; lemon and stem ginger or chocolate and cherry.
Lemon and Mandarin Jam Jar Cheesecakes
8 short and wide Jam Jars and lids or small Kilner Jars( washed and dried), medium saucepan to melt your butter in, butter knife, scales, rolling pin, plastic food bag, Metal tablespoons, spatula, Large mixing bowl, freestanding mixer, kitchen towel and tray.
270g McVities Digestive Biscuits
100g Unsalted Butter
1 Vanilla pod or tsp of good vanilla bean paste
600g Soft Cheese such as Philadelphia (at room temperature)
250g Icing Sugar, sieved
600ml Pot Double Cream
312g Tin of mandarin orange segments
1 Jar of homemade or good quality lemon curd (my Lemon Curd recipe is on my website)
1.Wash and dry your jars and pop them on a tray
2. Weigh your butter into a medium sized pan
3.Weigh your digestives, put them in your plastic bag and gently bash them with a rolling pin so you have mainly crumbs and no big bits. I do this rather than blitz them in a food processor which makes the crumb too fine and it becomes very compacted and hard to cut through. If you do it by hand you get a larger uneven crumb, which makes for a softer base. When you have crushed your biscuits, tip them in to your pan of melted butter and give them a good stir to coat all the crumbs
4. Divide the crumb mixture between the jam jars, aim for nearly 2 cm depth. Push the crumb mixture down so you have a nice even layer. I used the end of my rolling pin. Put them in the fridge to chill.
5. Drain the liquid off your soft cheese and then weigh it into your mixer bowl, along with your sieved icing sugar and the seeds from your vanilla pod or paste. If you are using a pod, get a sharp knife and run it along the length of the pod and then scrape the seeds out using the back of the knife blade. (Rather than throwing away the pod, if you like you can store the pod in a jar of sugar and it will impart a vanilla flavour to the sugar.)
6.Whisk it all together until it starts to thicken, then tip in your pot of double cream and a good two table spoons of lemon curd. Whisk again until it all starts to thicken up well, keep a close eye on it as you don’t want to over whip it.
7.Get your tray of jars out of the fridge and carefully spoon the cheesecake mixture into the jars, you need to push the mix down and check all around the jar that there aren’t any big air pockets. Fill to about 3 to 4 cm from the top of the jar as you need to leave a gap for put the topping on later.
8. When you have the mixture on top of your biscuit bases, smooth the tops as best you can and return back to the fridge for at least a couple of hours. You will have approximately 350g of cheesecake mixture left, this makes a great frosting for lemon cupcakes or filling for a cake. So pop it in a bowl and clingfilm or it freezes too.
9. Drain you mandarin segments really well, patting dry with kitchen roll. Take your tray of jars out of the fridge again and put a good heaped teaspoon of lemon curd on top of the mixture in each jar and smooth to cover then arrange your mandarins on top of the lemon curd in a nice pattern. Pop the lids on and return to the fridge to set over night.
10. Your Jam Jar Cheesecakes are now ready to go on an adventure. Obviously you need to be keeping them upright in your picnic basket. Other than that, don’t forget the spoons and enjoy.
My second recipe for you is for my Earl Grey Tea Loaf. I thought it would be an appropriate time to share this with you, as this year marks the 170th anniversary of the death of Charles Grey, Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1830- 1834 and the Earl who gave his name to the world famous tea.
There are several versions of how he came to have a tea named after him. One of the stories is that a Chinese Mandarin was so grateful for his Son being saved from drowning by one of the Earls men, that he gifted the flavoured tea to the Earl.
Another version of the tea tale is that on a state visit to China, Earl Grey was presented with a black tea flavoured with Bergamot by a Chinese Mandarin tea master blender. The citrusy flavour of the Bergamot was supposedly chosen to improve the flavour of tea for when he got back home to Newcastle. Apparently the water from the well at the Earl and Lady Greys home had a strong mineral taste and the flavouring of Bergamot would have made a more palatable brew. Quite how this would have been known over in China and how the flavouring of Bergamot was arrived at, we will never know. What is certain is that the tea became a huge hit with Lady Grey and she entertained the higher echelons of London society, showing off her new flavoured tea. It caught on and the rest as they say is history. So for my Earl Grey Tea Loaf, I have included fresh orange juice and orange zest as this compliments the natural citrusy taste of the bergamot.
In addition to the usual tea loaf ingredients of dried fruit, I add fresh blueberries as this makes the loaf really moist and juicy. You need to be starting the loaf three days at least, ahead of when you want to eat it as it actually improves with keeping a few days, as most tea loaves do. Each brand of Earl Grey is different, but my favourite is Twining’s Classic Blend. It was their shop on The Strand, back in 1831 that were personally requested by Earl Grey to make the tea for him. So I think that it is the perfect choice for this delicious cake. My recipe makes two 2lb loaves, as it’s just as easy to do the mix for two and you then have a spare, should you wish to freeze one.
Earl Grey Tea Loaf
2x 900g/2lb Loaf Tin, mine measures (9.5”/25cm long x 5”/ 12.5cm wide x2.5”/5cm deep), Greased and lined, with the lining coming up an inch above the loaf tin. Big mixing bowl, measuring jug, scales, sieve, zester, squeezer, butter knife, spatula, tsp, sharp knife and little chopping board, 2 cooling racks, teaspoon
400g Dark Brown Sugar
4 Good quality Earl Grey Tea Bags
Grated zest of 2 unwaxed oranges
Juice from 2 oranges
2 eggs beaten
500g Self Raising Flour
5g or 2 level tsp mixed spice
1.Boil your kettle and pour 500ml of boiling water on your 4 teabags into your measuring jug
2.Pour boiling water over your two oranges in bowl to get the wax and any impurities off them, after a few minutes take them out of the water and dry thoroughly. This will also yield more juice from the oranges too
3.Zest the oranges into your big bowl
4.Add the juice of the two oranges into the tea, it should bring the liquid up to about 700ml
5.Weigh out all of your fruit and sugar and put in the big mixing bowl on top of your orange zest
6.Fish the tea bags out giving them a good squeeze first
7.Pour the liquid on to the fruit, give it a good stir and cling film it and leave overnight.
8.Weigh your self raising flour and mixed spice and cover ready for tomorrow
9.When you are ready to bake on the following day, preheat your oven to 170c Fan
10.Stir two beaten eggs into your mixture and then sieve the flour and mixed spice in and stir to combine.
11.Divide the mixture between your two loaf tins, the mixture will be a bit looser than a normal Tea Loaf mix and you will be filling both tins nearly up to the top. This is fine as it doesn’t rise very much and it creates a lovely domed top with the fruit bursting through. Put them in your oven for approximately one hour, they are done when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean and they should be firm to the touch.
12.Put on cooling racks, still in the tins for ten minutes, and then turn them out of the tins on to the rack to cool completely.
13.When cold wrap the loaves in greaseproof paper and foil and put them in a tin until at least the following day. If you are freezing your second loaf, just put a wrap in the same way and put in a freezer bag and it will keep quite happily for 3 months.
Sadie Hirst is a member of Select Lincolnshire and of the British Society of Baking. If you would like to see any of Sadie’s previous Target recipes, they can be found at www.rjhirstfamilybutchers.co.uk
You can contact or follow Sadie on twitter Sadie Hirst@RJHirstfamilybutchers or email email@example.com